A significant property purchase last week has resulted in the Malahat First Nation effectively tripling in size.
The band announced the acquisition of 525 hectares of land, including the site formerly known as Bamberton, on Thursday.
Financed through the First Nations Finance Authority, the deal was more than a year in the making and is just one part of a bigger plan to construct a larger Malahat Nation.
"Today marks a monumental moment for the future of the Malahat Nation as this land purchase helps to restore more of our traditional lands into our stewardship," Chief Michael Harry said Wednesday. "We are moving forward to develop and protect the long-term viability of our people and our lands, while respecting our relationship with the neighbouring communities of southern Vancouver Island."
But not every neighbour is pleased with the property turnover.
While existing tenants with long-term leases include a cement company, a timber company and an engineering consulting firm, Bamberton Historical Society President Maureen Alexander said her group has been ordered off the property since the sale became official.
"I am dumbfounded at the
news," she said.
Bamberton is considered one of the most important industrial sites in B.C.’s history, Alexander noted.
For the past eight years the Society has run a museum and tours of the site and possesses the only archive record of the cement company and village.
"This sale will mean the end of our historical society," she said. "A record of over 100 years of B.C.’s history will be wiped away as well as the memory of thousands of residents and employees."
The historical society could potentially be replaced with any number of enterprises, including marine and terrestrial development related to business, tourism, light industry, housing, and more.
Expansion was long in the
works. The band developed a Comprehensive Community Plan in 2012 and has used that guiding document to help the Nation "further exercise their sovereignty and make progress toward a future that incorporates social, economic, political, cultural growth, and wealth."
In the last three years the band has built nine new residences, started the construction of four more, and has a longer-term plan to build five more homes in each of the next five years.
In addition to housing, the Kwunew Kwasun Cultural Resource Centre was completed in 2014 and provides a place for the community to learn, share their values, re-build the strengths of their culture and have a space to gather, said a press release issued by the First Nation.